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Ovechkin scores twice, 499th career goal lifts Caps to OT win

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Ovechkin scores twice, 499th career goal lifts Caps to OT win

NEW YORK - Post-game analysis of the Capitals’ wild 4-3 overtime win over the New York Rangers Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden:

How it happened: Nicklas Backstrom tied the score with 5.7 seconds remaining in regulation and Alex Ovechkin won it 1:25 into overtime with his second goal of the game, breezing past Rick Nash and muscling a shot through defenseman Ryan McDonagh and goalie Henrik Lundqvist to give the Caps their third straight win. Justin Williams also scored for the Caps in the second period. The Caps had a 2-0 lead heading into the third period. But the Rangers rallied with three goals on their first seven shots of the third period -- one each by Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes and Viktor Stalberg. That led to Backstrom’s last seconds heroics

What it means: The Caps are now 22-0-1 after leading through two periods.  They have won three straight and improved their league-leading record to 31-7-3 for 65 points. It is the best first half they’ve had in their 42-year history and are on pace 130 points, nine more than their last Presidents’ Trophy season in 2009-10.

Ovi one away: Alex Ovechkin received a gift of a goal with 15 seconds remaining in the opening period when Dan Girardi’s pass intended for Dominic Moore landed on his stick for an easy put back, giving him 498 NHL goals in 800 NHL games. He made it 499 with a mad rush in overtime.

Schmidtuation: Just before Ovechkin’s goal, Derek Stepan had a chance to win it, but a combined stop by Braden Holtby and Nate Schmidt thwarted his rebound attempt.

Look ahead: The Caps are right back in action Sunday night when they return home to face the Ottawa Senators (6:30 p.m. pregame, CSN). They will follow with three days between games, leading up to Thursday’s home game against the Vancouver Canucks.

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

On Friday, the Capitals shipped out Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to clear space on the salary cap for John Carlson's massive contract extension.

On Sunday night, Carlson signed on the dotted line. 

The 28-year-old became the latest core Cap to sign a long-term deal, inking an eight-year extension that will carry an $8 million average salary. 

His cap hit is now the second highest on the team—behind Ovechkin’s $9.538 million charge and just ahead of Kuznetsov’s $7.8 million hit.

With Carlson locked up, the defending Stanley Cup champion now has the majority of its core signed through at least the 2019-20 season. Among the players with at least two years remaining on their deals are forwards Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nickas Backstrom and Lars Eller, defensemen Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Braden Holtby.

The Carlson news did not come as a surprise.

The Caps wanted to keep him. Carlson, who makes his offseason home Washington, wanted to stay with the club that drafted him 27th overall in 2008. And on Friday night in Dallas, GM Brian MacLellan all but guaranteed that a deal was going to happen when he said, “We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

It ended up taking a little more than 24 hours, but in the end MacLellan got his D-man.

“John has been an exceptional and consistent player for our franchise and has blossomed into being one of the top defensemen in the NHL,” said MacLellan in a statement on Sunday. “Defenseman like John are a rare commodity in our League and, at 28 years of age, we feel he is just entering his prime.”

Indeed, Carlson notched a career-high 15 goals and 53 assists last season, and his 68 points led all NHL defensemen. He also became the eighth defensemen in Caps’ history to record 60 points in a season and the first since Mike Green accomplished the feat in 2009-10. Meanwhile, Carlson’s average ice time (24:47) also marked a career high.

“As a right-handed defenseman, John plays in all key situations and has contributed greatly to our team’s success on the special teams,” MacLellan added. “We are pleased for both parties to have come to an agreement and for him to continue his great career as a Washington Capital.”

With Carlson under contract, the Caps now have a little more than $13 million in cap space underneath the $79.5 million ceiling, according to www.capfiendly.com. Michal Kempny, Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson and Jakub Jerabek are all unrestricted free agents, while Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey are restricted free agents.

Carlson’s signing kicks off a big week for MacLellan.

In addition to negotiating with the free agents he hopes to retain, he’s expected to have a formal interview with associate coach Todd Reirden, who is the leading candidate to replace Barry Trotz as head coach.

So buckle up, there figure to be a few more important announcements in the coming days.

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.

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